A Childhood Dream
by George Dean – Member 5954
September 17th, 2016
- I was born 1945 in San Francisco. Yes, it was convenient that there was an active “Japan Town” near Geary and Fillmore streets that would bring the culture alive during numerous visits. There were restaurants, antique shops, a book store, a theater, and so on. Further out Fillmore, up Divisadero hill and down a steep hill to Union Street you would find the Rio Theater (more later).
- In about 1951 or so an uncle from Chicago visited our home. He just happened to be an avid stamp collector. I remember him showing me part of his collection during the visit and presenting me with a used U.S. Scott #103 (Trans-Mississippi Fremont on the Rocky Mountains). It was a beauty (even though it had a thin) and perfect as a presentation at my 1st Grade “Show and Tell.” “Here is a rare stamp that my uncle gave me…..”
- That first stamp introduced me to collecting world wide stamps in about 1952. I remember the thrill of the hunt for large packets of stamps that you could buy ten cents for 100, or even 25 cents for 250. The first album was purchased and I learned how to mount stamps with a hinge (but the first try was really difficult not knowing which end was up or down). The Fifties in my mind was the “Golden Era of Stamp Collecting” with so many choices of stamps and albums. I continued with worldwide collecting until about 1960.
- By the time I began high school I had discovered that it would make more sense to specialize in a single country. I had seen all of the wonderful country albums available, all with colorful dust jackets from Minkus and Scott. The local shop on Monterey Blvd. opened by Mr. Seebohm provided a place we could buy individual stamps at reasonable prices. But what would be a country that best suited me?
- My Father, being a WWII veteran, introduced myself and my brother to Japanese culture as he had several friends who had been sent off to camp after the start of the war. He admired Japanese culture especially the martial arts of Jiujitsu, Judo, and Karate. He also told us stories about the Samurai during the Edo Period and introduced us to historical stories. By then, my brother and I really enjoyed our many adventures during the evening when my Dad took us to the the Japanese Samurai double bill at the Rio Theater on Union Street. Up one hill, down another, quite a long drive.
- It was then that we initially found Japanese stamp albums printed by the Ginza Stamp Club and both brother and I began collecting Japanese Stamps. From there, we both went on to Minkus Specialty Albums for Japan. It was always nice to have a brother you could discuss stamps with. Our conversation often went: “When do you think you will be able to buy the 1949 Purple Geese sheet of five” or “Take a look, I just bought a Daisetsuzan 1940 Park sheet.” We learned Japanese Philately by sharing our two collections!
- After high school I joined the Navy Reserves and was sent to Taiwan for two years of service. What a disappointment, as it wasn’t Japan as I had requested! But wait a minute, I sought out the places shown on the 1941 Park Sheets. What about Mount Daiton, and how about Taroko Gorge? I visited all of the places on the Park Sheets and more. I learned Mandarin and Chinese Characters. When I returned I refined my Japanese and Chinese language skills at San Francisco State.
- 1970, I also began collecting Chinese and Japanese Antiques. I bought and sold porcelain, scrolls, and other items and kept the better items for myself. I particularly enjoyed the art work in the landscape scrolls with mountains. That was it, I now realize that enjoyment of those landscape scrolls had its origin in Japanese Park Stamps. The photographers of the early Park Series I, were not only photographers, but they were landscape artists. Look at the 1938 Nikko Park Scott #283 20 sen blue. It is a perfect landscape with foreground, a lake further back, trees further back, with Mount Hiuchi looming in the background. This is exactly how Japanese classic artists would depict a beautiful landscape scroll.
- Now that I am retired I spend more time on my collections (Japanese Stamps, Landscape Scrolls, Other antiques. What wonderful pieces of art are the Japanese Park Stamps. Look at the beauty of landscapes printed on the Japanese Park Stamps. Fuji, Nikko, Daisen, Aso, Daisetsuzan, Kirishima, Daiton-Niitaka Arisan, Tsugitaka-Taroko, Yoshino-Kumano, Akan, Towada, Chubu Sangaku, Bandai-Asahi, Shikotsu-Toya, Ise-Shima, Unzen, Jo-shin-etsu, Chichibu-Tama, Rikuchu Coast, Saikai. All are masterpieces of photographic art. A childhood dream – do you have them all?